Romanians living in Asia seem highly determined to discover themselves, and Razvan makes no exception about it: he lets himself influenced by the cultural complexity and the healthy environment nowhere else to be seen in this world. Today we have a look at life in Hong Kong, and how can Asia change an already mature individual.
Name: Razvan Mihai Oancea
Hometown: Iasi till 1996, then moved to Brasov till 2013
Abroad since: 1st March 2014
Living in: Hong Kong
Current position & company: Regional Sales & Operations Director ASIA, AMANN Group
TGR: Razvan, you have spent almost an entire career with AMANN Group. What made you stay for more than 16 years?
Yes, indeed! Now recalling all these years I just realized how many of them already passed, and this perception of not being aware of time is occurring when you are passionate about what you are doing. I like the organization, the people, the industry itself. There were many challenges during these years (turning around the company in Romania, building a manufacturing site, meeting extraordinary people all around Romania and the world lately) and all of them made me feel that I am bringing my contribution, which is a great great feeling.
AMANN is a global, traditional company - over 150 years of history and present in over 100 countries. What's the positioning of the Brasov factory within the whole group?
Well, sewing threads are having a much larger utilisation than Fashion & Shoes industry (automotive, technical application, furniture, hi-tech etc). Therefore, being well integrated within a country in EU with competitive costs and efficient supply-chain grants them great flexibility and adaptiveness to market dynamics and geopolitical macroeconomics. We are market leader in Europe and expanding in Asia lately, as we have invested in several manufacturing sites in China and Bangladesh for the last 6-7 years. Still, Brasov factory is strategically important for our organization, as China costs are growing very fast and the market is transforming from a manufacturing into an immense consumption one.
After so many successful years with the Romanian office, you have changed gears and moved to Hong Kong. What made you accept this new challenge?
My father told us (me and my sister) that best teacher will be life itself. I had replied to him “why do I need school, then?” and he said: ”Is like in Boxing - training teaches you to endure, avoid and kick back”. That probably stayed in my subconscious mind and drove me towards looking for new experiences, exploring new places, meeting different people and cultures. Being just a tourist doesn’t give you same feelings and insides about places and people, as one is biased by the choices he made before trip. When you live with them, blend in, you start being aware about details and feel the real experiences. Additionally, the job itself sounded great, complex and challenging. Exactly on my taste, and most importantly - family fully supported the idea, even though my daughter was just 4 years old.
How's like working with your team in Hong Kong?
My core value is to have the right people at the right place, and fitting these two elements is truly an art. As the need to factor in culture, to understand local laws, personal capabilities, attitude, leadership, cost…. better the fit, better the results, but everyone is looking for the same people, so competition is high, talent acquisition and management become a purpose for every economic entity. I think the challenge is bigger in Asia due to the great mix of races and religions (by comparison with EU), therefore leading diversity is a key skill for an executive position.
This actually confirms my impression about Hong Kong – an extremely diverse society. Could you tell me something unique about local culture?
That’s a bit more difficult nowadays when social media and globalization lead to many imported habits in the local culture. Hong Kong is a place where you can immerse on diversity and you can taste individual cultural experiences only if you know where to look. Our friends are coming from different cultures and races and many families are mixed with combinations that I did not consider before. They are from Mongolia, UK, US, HK, India, Italy, Lebanon, Israel, S. Africa, Romania, Canada…. Imagine kids learning and speaking up to 4 languages, playing together, creating friendship beyond culture barriers, learning to live in a complex, peaceful society... That’s great about Hong Kong. To the opposite of wealth world, spending time outside big cities makes you feel lucky you were born in Romania! People are living in poverty but still smiling, compassionate, willing to help, and not begging for money. There are so many aspects when we consider culture that an entire book is required to describe them all, and I am not a talented novelist
So I would say a complex life in a cosmopolite city…
No, not really – living in HK is actually simple and easy. It is a very well organised city, where public transport is very punctual, and with the MTR (underground) you can reach almost all corners of town. Therefore I do not need and do not use a car, although commuting to the office takes more than 1 hour per one way. You can do check-in in town instead of going to the airport, and this is a fantastic option for visitors or when you travel. Most of the public services can be solved online. Medical services are excellent yet expensive for the private ones, so you need medical insurance coverage in order to avoid long queues. The food diversity and plenty of places to enjoy a drink after working hours bring a special flavour to this city, and spectacular buildings and shopping malls make many people fall in love with it.
Is there anything disappointing, maybe something you'd like to be different?
Yes. Pollution is affecting China and Hong Kong, mostly in winter when the wind is blowing from North East and brings pollution to HK. Summer is not really a problem due to winds blowing from the sea, but I do miss the quality air from Brasov. You know, China is the factory of the world, and despite many measures enforced recently, it will take years until effect will be seen on pollution level.
How do you usually spend your free time?
Unfortunately, I am not spending that much time in HK as I travel quite intensively within the region, especially in China where our manufacturing sites are. On weekends I’ll mostly stay in HK and enjoy spending time with my family and friends. For holidays I prefer to travel around Asia, as HK after a while is becoming limited to explore. There are marvellous places to be seen - the exquisite Singapore, the mix of beautiful landscapes with crowded towns in Japan, secluded beaches in Thailand, Philippines… Extremely interesting is the deep immerse in cultural experiences like meditating in Buddhist monasteries. I am devoting parts of my holidays on these escapes, rest I am back to Romania to see family and friends.
It’s nice to hear you find time to come home from so far away! How often do you actually travel to Romania?
That depends ….Usually I was 2 times per year and if I am lucky sometimes I could come with business to Brasov as well. I did link sometime my European trips to HQ with short visits in Romania.
Apart from the fresh air in Brasov, what do you mostly miss about Romania?
First is the family and friends, snowboarding in Poiana or Prahova Valley, a good palinca – well, not that much as I have a stash in HK . I miss fast movement (driving in most cases) between beach and mountains, nice towns and great historical places to visit.
Please tell me something particular about Romania that you would usually say to a foreign friend.
Romania is still unchartered territory here in Asia. They probably know about location and some news on major channels, which are not usually good unfortunately. So, I like sharing about our history and heritage, habits and humour. In many cases people are amazed by our monasteries, idyllic places and geography. Imagine that in Asia most places are very crowded, with large cities, pollution, and winter landscapes with heavy snow look from fairy tales. Pictures with Bucharest under snow are amazing.
My foreign friends who experienced more of Romania mostly like history, palinca and humour. Soon I will have some colleagues coming to Romania, and I am happy to help them discover more.
Do you see yourself moving back? What could convince you?
That’s a good question! For the moment I have no plan whatsoever, as I have been only 3 years in Asia and there are still many things to explore. I am feeling good, family is fine, challenging job. On the other hand my daughter is growing and we are asking ourselves what will be the best for her. A great value in our family is to create the right environment for raising our child. Our parents are in Romania too, so matrix is complex and decision is not taken. We are flexible and we’ll adapt if necessary.
Once I will be back I am considering to share my experience with young people who start their adult life, as our education system (in Romania and not only) is too focused on knowledge rather than finding a meaning in life. I believe pressure is increasing on kids today. A simple example is the fact that so many people are working in different fields than what they had studied. So many years of education lost from both sides. Costs of education lost by not using knowledge to create value, and years lost in learning which are underused and eventually starting again in a new field. If teenagers discover earlier what they want to do with their lives with the support of education (and parents also play a critical role) they will be able to create more value to society and themselves. Questioning the education systems is everywhere in the world, especially due to fast dynamic of society transformation, difference is done by the ones that are taking action, as such transformation shows results in generations.
I believe everyone should be welcomed to get involved in this area, but some changes need to occur as quickly as possible, in terms of accepting professionals outside the system.
Well, I won’t go too much on that right now…I am not an expert and I feel attracted to get involved on different related activities when I will be back home.
Razvan, what is your biggest dream?
To discover myself. That’s a long journey, where experiencing and challenging limits are becoming a habit, exposure to inter-cultural daily life shows that acceptance and compassion are key factors in life balance. At the end of the day, it makes you immerse on a quest of identity, life importance and ability to transform. That’s kind of mastering yourself, and is a long road to go. The funny part is that you do not know how far you are….
I think such a journey is only possible in Asia, so, like you said before, you are the right person at the right time in the right place! Any final thoughts regarding our home country?
We all should be happy that we were born in Romania. Although sometimes we fail to learn from our mistakes, it is a fantastic place to live, resourceful, with beautiful geographies, complex history and high potentials. Let’s look on the positive side, seek for what is good in people and we will become more compassionate. Much stress will be released and get more happiness
That is so so true, this is actually why The Golden Romania exists – to highlight our positives (I am sick and tired of hearing bad things about us!). Thank you, Razvan, for your time!
The Golden Romania
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